Potential Dangers of Using Social Media as a Journalistic Tool

27 04 2011

When journalists use Twitter, they are picking up some risks whether they know it or not. The biggest risk of all is the fact that there are Twitter impostors out there. The impostors are big danger to journalists who twitter, because they could either rely on what the twitterer says as fact or they themselves could be a victim of an impostor.

The first risk for journalists who use Twitter is getting in trouble for using a fake Twitter account as a source. One example of a fake Twitter account can be seen by reading the article, “Matt Leinart’s Twitter account: if fake, should be removed”. This article is about Matt Leinart being the victim of a Twitter impostor. The impostor tweeted things that would have gotten Leinart into trouble if he truly tweeted them. What would have caused even more harm, is if a journalist believed the fake Leinart account to be true. This would have caused a lot of trouble, because the journalist could be sued for liable or slander by Leinart. If a journalist gets sued or liable or slander, they will most likely be fired, because a news station will see that journalist as a future liability. In addition, the Cardinals franchise would suffer a lot of bad PR for the whole scandal. As anyone could see, using a fake Twitter account as a source is not only harmful to journalists, but also the source them self.
Another potential harm for Twitter using journalists is the fact that they themselves could be the victim of a Twitter impostor. One example of this happening is the story of Journalist Jan Moir. The impostor tweeted articles and content that was homophobic. The Twitterer even tweeted that her son was gay. Luckily for Jan, her employers probably had the common sense to know that this account had to be fake. The article, “How to spot a hoax Twitter account – a case study”, actually delivers some tips on how to notice an impostor. Most of these tips are based on common sense, like noticing who is following the account, who the account follows, and if a tweet is “too good to be true”. The last tip is the most obvious. If someone tweets something that is too immature and the account has a history of doing this, you can bet it’s a fake.
Overall, journalists need to have a good head on their shoulders when using a Twitter account. Most should think past the obvious (not posting obscene content that could hurt their career), and learn how to spot fake Twitter accounts. Journalists should also report fake Twitter accounts not only of themselves, but also of people who could be potential sources for stories.

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